The term “healthy child” is more than just a physiological state.   Naturally, it is important to feed our children all the right food ingredients because good nutrition will have a lasting impact on their physical and emotional state.  In Western culture, we are fortunate that many of the children in our society do not go hungry. Yet as a society, there is a more devastating trend coming to the forefront–the propensity is to starve our children’s emotional needs.  This “emotional malnutrition” can lead to a myriad of challenges for a child such as the reduced ability to cope in stressful situations, poor peer relations, low self-regard, challenges in school, drug and alcohol abuse, academic problems, etc.  Of course challenges of this nature may be the result of a variety of presentingproblems, but they may also be the clear result of not feeding, nurturing, or fostering a child’s E.Q. (emotional intelligence).

The dismal reality is that many people are failing to see that children are having emotional struggles. There is a tendency for people to think that a child has to be in a crisis to be in need of emotional revitalization.  Children need what everyone needs–emotional support, unconditional acceptance, and love.  However children also need constant reminders and role modeling for what they are lacking the most–the simple fundamental tools and knowledge about basic human values.

Unfortunately, most of today’s children are inspired by external variables.  Many of a child’s reactive, self-indulgent behaviors come from what is being modeled by media and society.  The challenge is that fundamentally most children are aware of basic moral concepts such as non-violence, peace, right conduct, love, and truth.   However many are lacking the practical application element that will serve them in their time of need.

So what is the answer to solving this emotional enigma?  It is a resolve that is “More easily said than done.”  As a parent, educator, and community member it will require time, patience, fortitude, and the desire to have more emotionally nourished, healthy children.   However the answer in and of itself is conceptually simple:  1) Allow your children to be who they are innately. Children need to be allowed to dream and set goals for themselves.  2) Honor your child for where they are in life.  Children have their own timing.  It is important not to gauge the success of one child against that of another.  Fostering a child’s unique talents and abilities is a sure way to promote positive self-esteem.  3.) No matter what your child says or does, always provide them with unconditional love and support. Children will make mistakes!  Calmly talk to your child about what has transpired.  Remind them that no matter what has happened, you will still love them even though you may be disappointed with their choice.  Nurturing an unconditional relationship with your child will provide them a safe haven in their time of need as well as unlock the door to open communication. 4.) Listen to your children…and allow their voice to be a viable part of the family dynamic. Children will learn to make good decisions if they are allowed to make decisions.  Have family meetings, and let them have an input in the family’s decision making process. 5) Give your child choices and allow them to make poor choices.  Just as everyone, children need to have opportunities to learn and grow.  And as we all have learned, sometime the greatest growth comes from our biggest mistakes!  6) Give your child consequences and allow them to be part of the process. Children naturally tend to be more punitive with themselves when they are allowed to be part of the “punishment” process. 7) Encourage your children to play (and play with them)!  Teaching a child the value of play time creates a balanced human being. 8) Spend quality time with your children.  Quality times are things like talking (and even more important listening), reading together, taking a walk, and in general really honoring the moment that you are sharing with each other.  9) Encourage spiritual growth!  Children who are encouraged and have the opportunity to grow spiritually are more balanced and happy.  10) Teach and model tolerance, non-judgment, and reverence for everything that is on this planet.   11) And most important, remind them each and every day of their value and how much you love, honor, and appreciate them.  Oh yes, and be sure to give them lots of HUGS!

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